Child support is essential to meeting children’s needs. It is also a legal duty that parents are responsible for. In North Carolina, child support is calculated based on an “income shares” approach, which considers parenting time, incomes, and expenses at the time the support order is entered. However, the circumstances of parents and children are fluid, and change over time. Children get older, their needs change, visitation changes over time, and people change (or lose) jobs. This is why it becomes necessary to revisit child support orders.
Modifying Court Ordered Child Support
In order to modify a child support order, the party asking the court for the modification must show that there has been a material and substantial change in circumstances. Generally, the courts will revisit child support orders if requested after three years. Some of the factors that courts may focus on when determining that circumstances have substantially and materially changed include:
- The general needs of the child;
- The age of the child;
- Any special needs of the child;
- Changes in expenses related to the child—for example, if the child’s health insurance premiums or education costs have risen;
- The amount of time that the child spends with each parent, and if there has been a significant change in the custody arrangement over time;
- Each parent’s income and ability to support the child—this includes if the parents have experienced a jump in income, or a loss of income;
- If the application of the income shares guidelines would result in a change of 15% or more;
- If the child has reached the age of twenty or graduated from school; or
- If the child has passed away.
Child Support by Agreement
If a child support obligation was originally created by agreement, the court has more latitude in modifying child support. For example, if child support provisions are contained in a separation agreement, a court has the authority to modify this obligation upon review, if it determines that the support amount is not in the child’s best interest. Further, a court will always refuse to enforce agreements that are unconscionable, such as separation agreements that waive child support.
New Direction Family Law
If you are seeking to modify a child support order, you should seek legal guidance. At New Direction Family Law, we understand the law and will consider all of the necessary circumstances and advise you about whether a substantial and material change of circumstances exists to support modification of a child support order. Child support is important to your children, don’t take unnecessary chances when it comes to supporting them. Contact New Direction Family Law at (919) 719-3470 to schedule an initial consultation, or contact us at our website.
Sarah J. Hink
New Direction Family Law